Well, it’s the end of December and there aren’t many studio albums due to be released between now and the end of the year, so – when this time comes – it has been a tradition of mine to look back on the year’s music and decide which were my personal favourites. It’s something I have done for the last few years (since 2004) and shared with whatever internet community I’ve been part of at the time. I have even, in the past, gone to the extent of writing full reviews for each album. Sadly, I don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to this endeavour this year, but I would like to share with you the albums which I believe have really stood out to as exceptional and head and shoulders above the rest. It may even give you a few ideas as to what to buy the music fan in your life for Christmas – unless, of course, they like Lady Gaga, Westlife, JLS and that kind of thing, that is. In which case, I’d have to suggest arsenic as the perfect present for them. But make sure you hide it in their mince pies for a proper festive surprise!
Oddly enough, I was contemplating the new studio albums released this year and was musing, gloomily, that it hasn’t exactly been a vintage year for new music. However, after going through all of the albums I purchased, I realised that there have been some real gems and far, far more quality music released this year than I’d imagined. Admittedly, it hasn’t been a classic year for music (it’s no 1967 or 1973), but it’s still been pretty great. Anyway, rather than doing a traditional list where I rank each release, I’ve decided to split my favourite albums from the year into two categories, presented in alphabetical order instead of order of preference. So – without further ado…
Outstanding – Highly Recommended
Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms
Lush harmonies, timeless, heartfelt songs with a flavour of both rock and Americana. A stirring but wonderfully emotive record.
Elvis Costello – National Ransom
After last year’s disappointing effort, Elvis comes back with a 24-carat, solid gold album. Still country flavoured, but a lot more focused, eclectic and full of life. Superb.
Fyfe Dangerfield – Fly Yellow Moon
One of the surprises of the year – The Guillemots’ frontman really delivers with his solo debut. Full of big pop songs, tender ballads, originality and inventiveness.
The Divine Comedy – Bang Goes The Knighthood
Witty, biting, melodic and utterly brilliant. Possibly the album of Neil Hannon’s career, but, if not, certainly up there with Casanova, Regeneration and Fin De Siecle.
David Ford – Let The Hard Times Roll
Three studio albums, all of them magnificent. How this man doesn’t enjoy mass-popularity and worldwide acclaim, I’ll never know. Full of big melodies, raw, honest lyrics and hooks which will fill your head for weeks on end.
Jack Johnson – To The Sea
The laid-back Hawaiian former pro-surfer returns with his strongest album since In Between Dreams. All of the elements which made his most popular album so listenable and memorable are present and correct on, undoubtedly, one of the enjoyable albums of the year.
Ray LaMontagne – God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise
Lush, soulful and brilliant. Shimmering Americana delivered by one of the greatest voices in music today.
Lightspeed Champion – Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You
Clever (without being smug), very human, cutting edge indie-pop, bursting with melody and ideas.
The Magic Theatre – London Town
Unlike anything else released this year, this grandiose album, jam-packed full of catchy melodies, orchestral flourishes and more musical twists and turns than you can shake a stick at. It needs to be heard to believed. Absolutely brilliant.
Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young Man
The Manics return with their third album in four years and there’s no dilution in quality, this being a bombastic, thrilling, as-commercial-as-the-Manics-get collection of superb, memorable songs.
Walter Trout – Common Ground
The blues/rock album of the year. Scintillating playing – solid, thrilling riffs and incredible solos. The kind of musicianship that takes your breath away.
Very Good – Well Worth Buying
- The Acorn – No Ghost
- Admiral Radley – I Heart California
- Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
- Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare
- Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer Of The Void
- Eric Clapton – Clapton
- Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep
- The Coral – Butterfly House
- Crowded House – Intriguer
- Delta Spirit – History From Below
- Eels – End Times
- The Ghost Of A Sabre Toothed Tiger – Acoustic Sessions
- Ed Harcourt – Lustre
- The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever
- Elton John & Leon Russell – The Union
- John Lennon/Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy Stripped Down
- Amy MacDonald – A Curious Thing
- Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
- Ocean Colour Scene – Saturday
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Mojo
- Race Horses – Goodbye Falkenburg
- Josh Ritter – So Runs The World Away
- Bruce Springsteen – The Promise
- Teenage Fanclub – Shadows
- Richard Thompson – Dream Attic
- Vampire Weekend – Contra
- Weezer – Hurley
- Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation
The disappointments of the year, for me, are;
- Ray Davies – See My Friends
- Bryan Ferry – Olympia
- Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue
- Neil Young – Le Noise
There are quite a few other albums I’ve bought which I haven’t mentioned. Either because they haven’t quite made their mark on me or I’ve considered them neither great, nor bad – such as the albums by Joe Bonamassa, Alter Bridge, Joanna Newsom, Bellowhead, Stornoway and quite a few others. Of course, if there’s one of your favourites which I haven’t mentioned, then it’s more than possible that I simply haven’t heard it.
Please feel free to share your opinions on music released this year or ask me to go into further detail about any of the albums I’ve listed. With time permitting, I’ll answer all of your comments.
Thanks for reading.